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Voter Turnout Soars in North Carolina and Indiana GOP Primaries from 2008

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Buoyed by key primary battles down the ballot and a gay marriage ban initiative, Indiana and North Carolina notch the 3rd and 4th biggest increases in GOP presidential primary turnout from 2008

northcarolinaseal10.pngWhen a presumptive nominee emerges during the presidential primaries - as Mitt Romney has done this cycle - there is often little incentive to drive voters to the polls in the waning months of the primary season.

That wasn't the case this week, however, in North Carolina and Indiana.

A high-profile primary battle in the U.S. Senate in Indiana and an open gubernatorial race in North Carolina combined with the latter state's constitutional amendment banning gay marriage helped prompt the Tar Heel and Hoosier States to tally the third and fourth biggest increase in turnout in the Republican presidential race from 2008.

North Carolina saw an increase of 86.8 percent, or over 449,000 votes, from the 2008 cycle when John McCain had long sealed his 'presumptive nominee' status.

That trails only Mississippi at +99.4 percent and Wisconsin at +91.2 percent for the biggest increases from the 2008 primary election season.

Mississippi's increase is attributed to both a tight three-way battle in the state for the presidential race between Romney, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich combined with a controversial life-at-conception initiative that was defeated at the ballot box.

Indiana's primary, which saw Republican voters come out to crush six-term incumbent Dick Lugar in the GOP U.S. Senate race, has the fourth highest cycle-to-cycle increase from 2008 at 55.0 percent.

Approximately 639,000 Indiana residents voted in the GOP presidential primary, compared to just over 412,000 in 2008.

Rounding out the Top 10 increases in turnout in the Republican presidential primaries and caucuses thus far are Kansas at #5 (+52.8 percent), Vermont at #6 (+52.7 percent), South Carolina at #7 (+35.5 percent), North Dakota at #8 (+16.0 percent), Louisiana at #9 (+15.6 percent), and Maine at #10 (+15.0 percent).

Turnout in the third state to hold its primary on Tuesday - West Virginia - was down 5.8 percent from four years ago.

Overall turnout voter for the 2012 GOP primaries and caucuses is basically flat from 2008 - down 0.7 percent out of 14+ million voters among the 36 states with comparable data from the previous cycle.

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1 Comment


  • So what WAS the actual turnout in North Carolina? You talk about an 86%increase... 86% of WHAT? 5 voters to 9 voters?! What was the ACTUAL percentage of eligible voters ACTUALLY voting in this election in North Carolina?

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    Remains of the Data

    No Free Passes: States With 2 Major Party Candidates in Every US House Race

    Indiana has now placed candidates from both major parties on the ballot in a nation-best 189 consecutive U.S. House races, with New Hampshire, Minnesota, Idaho, and Montana also north of 100 in a row.

    Political Crumbs

    Gubernatorial Highs and Lows

    Two sitting governors currently hold the record for the highest gubernatorial vote ever received in their respective states by a non-incumbent: Republican Matt Mead of Wyoming (65.7 percent in 2010) and outgoing GOPer Dave Heineman of Nebraska (73.4 percent in 2006). Republican Gary Herbert of Utah had not previously won a gubernatorial contest when he notched a state record 64.1 percent for his first victory in 2010, but was an incumbent at the time after ascending to the position in 2009 after the early departure of Jon Huntsman. Meanwhile, two sitting governors hold the record in their states for the lowest mark ever recorded by a winning gubernatorial candidate (incumbent or otherwise): independent-turned-Democrat Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island (36.1 percent in 2010) and Democrat Terry McAuliffe of Virginia (47.8 percent in 2013).


    An Idaho Six Pack

    Two-term Idaho Republican Governor Butch Otter only polled at 39 percent in a recent PPP survey of the state's 2014 race - just four points ahead of Democratic businessman A.J. Balukoff. Otter's low numbers reflect his own struggles as a candidate (witness his weak primary win against State Senator Russ Fulcher) combined with the opportunity for disgruntled Idahoans to cast their votes for one of four third party and independent candidates, who collectively received the support of 12 percent of likely voters: Libertarian John Bujak, the Constitution Party's Steve Pankey, and independents Jill Humble and Pro-Life (aka Marvin Richardson). The six candidate options in a gubernatorial race sets an all-time record in the Gem State across the 46 elections conducted since statehood. The previous high water mark of five candidates was reached in seven previous cycles: 1902, 1904, 1908, 1912, 1914, 1966, and 2010.


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